As we settle in for a two-week bludgeoning of Harbaugh Bowl hype and Ray Lewis soundbites, one interesting subplot involves the perception of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, whose success-to-acclaim ratio is grossly out of whack.
The much-maligned former Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen has an enviable résumé. He’s won at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons in the league, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to do so. Already, he’ the leader in NFL history in career playoff road wins, with six. His eight playoff wins in the last five seasons are matched only by Eli Manning, who achieved his eight wins in two four-game bursts on his way to two Super Bowl wins, and it’s worth noting that Flacco’s regular-season stats and winning percentage are better than Eli’s. In Flacco’s three-game run to this year’s Lamar Hunt Trophy, he’s thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions and posted a QB rating north of 100 in each game.
For whatever reason — his humble background as an FCS quarterback, the Ravens’ reputation as a defense-first franchise — Flacco remains on the periphery of the league’s inner circle of elite signal-callers, at least in terms of reputation. Many fans regard him as a Trent Dilfer–style game manager who might luck his way into a ring on the backs of his defensive colleagues. Those fans ignore what is a remarkable ledger of production and accomplishment.
Playoff wins are hard to ignore, and finally Flacco is starting to receive his due as a winning NFL quarterback. Should he lead the Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XLVII, even his detractors will have to acknowledge that he’s among the league’s elite. In my mind, he’s already there.
One of Flacco’s vanquished opponents agrees with me. “He is one of the elite quarterbacks,” said New England Patriots safety Steve Gregory. “I know he gets a lot of flak for not being that type of guy, but he is.”
— Rob Doster is senior editor for Athlon Sports.